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Monitoring technology helps to revive the Mary Rose
The Mary Rose museum has been described as the British equivalent of Italy's Pompeii in terms of its historic significance. Playing a key role in the restoration of the Tudor era ship is monitoring technology that helps to protect its timbers.
The Mary Rose Museum at Portsmouth Historic Dockyard gives visitors a fascinating insight into 16th century maritime engineering. But it is engineering of a more modern kind that is helping the historic warship's safe passage into the limelight, with sophisticated monitoring technology playing a crucial role in protecting the vulnerable timbers of the ship, which forms the centrepiece of the new museum.
Following the recovery of the wreck from the sea bed in 1982, a 17-year programme of active conservation was launched in 1994 when the ship was sprayed with polyethylene glycol (PEG), a wax that gradually replaced the water content within the timbers. Ten years later, a second spraying system was introduced, coating and sealing the outer layers of the timber with a hotter and thicker wax. The final stage, which started in 2011, was to encase the ship in a chamber and shroud her in a mist formed by a new conserving solution.
As part of the continuing preservation work, conservators at the Mary Rose Trust drafted in The IMC Group to monitor the condition of the wood and the environment of the chamber in which it is being stored throughout the crucial final phases of the project. Working alongside the conservators, the IMC Group's team developed a tailor-made monitoring and control system to provide staff with data about the temperature and humidity of the chamber's interior, which had to be carefully maintained to avoid deterioration of the timbers.
More than 60 sensors from the Group's Hanwell range remain attached to the hull, continuously mapping the condition of the wood, including three specialist Woodwatch units which utilise high-frequency Acoustic Emission (AE) technology. The IMC Group's Engineering Director, Dr Martin Hancock says: "We're extremely proud to be associated with this incredible project to bring the Mary Rose back to life for 21st century visitors. The restoration has been a long and challenging process for everyone involved and, because of the unique nature of the project, we had to design a unique solution. The technology that we introduced gave the conservation team a form of insight and measurement that hadn't been available to them before, and has proven crucial to the successful completion of their painstaking work."
As part of the £35m project, the remaining timbers will be augmented with a reconstruction of the missing half of the vessel and reunited with its original contents, comprising thousands of artefacts that have been recovered and preserved separately from the ship itself. Together, the ship and its contents will form a Tudor-era time capsule, providing visitors with an insight into 16th century life. The items include weapons, naval supplies and many more of the crew's possessions, including musical instruments.
The ship can be viewed in its chamber via an innovative walkway, but it will only be fully unveiled when the chamber is withdrawn in 2016 when the Mary Rose will become the only 16th century warship on display anywhere in the world.
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